RETURNING TO Cambridge as a sophomore. I went to look at my House. The day was bright and sunny, but an icy wind blew through Mather House, starting at a gaping hole in what appeared to be the dining room wall, and exiting through a broken window two hunks of cement down. It was a Friday morning; nobody was working.
Mather House, we were told last spring, would be finished by November. Meanwhile, we are to be spread out as thin as possible among the suites in the rest of the Houses so maybe nobody will notice we're there. I ask the Eliot House supervisor for my key. On the House list there is a large star next to my name. "You're a Mather House sophomore." he says with distaste. "You boys sure are causing a lot of trouble for us here in Eliot House."
As I slink out of the supervisor's office, a jock looms over the horizon. "Hey, what is this?" he says. "There's a goddam bunk bed in my goddam room. Are they trying to give us a goddam floater? We ain't gonna take this crap. We'll make him so miserable he'll be begging to move out within a week."
The supervisor refers him to a notice on the bulletin board. The jock and I go out to read the notice. It is from Master Heimert, apologizing for the inconvenience, asking crowdies not to vent their wrath on the House secretary, and saying. "We have been told that Mather House will be completed by December, and that [mysteriously] other provisions may be made for these men soon."
A piece of ivy falls on my head. Welcome to Eliot House.
My friend Tom, a fellow Mather orphan, arrived at his six-man quaint to find all the bedrooms padlocked and reserved with signs for "Dave and Betsy." "Steve and Joanne," "Mona and The Madman," "Ken," and "Crazy Al." The living room was filled to chest level with barbells, broken furniture, and several Persian rugs and boxes of knickknacks Ken had culled from a couple of profitable years on the Lampoon business board.
AS THE roommates sprouted and faded throughout the next week like acne, Tom was evicted from every room in the suite. He agreed to share a bedroom with Crazy Al, who hadn't shown up yet, and applied for the second smallest. "Dear Dave," he wrote, "Crazy Al and I would like to use your room as a double. I hope we can settle these differences and live together amicably. Sincerely yours, Tom."
Dave wrote back: "Dear Tom, Keep the Hell Out of My Room. Sincerely yours, Dave."
Crazy Al showed up 4:55 p. m. Registration Day and Tom found himself out in the living room with the barbells.
With visions of "other provisions" dancing in his head, Tom went to the House secretary. From her he discovered he had a friend living in a double the House wanted to make into a triple. He begged on his knees for the friend and his roommate to take him in. In reply, they began taking off their clothes, throwing rotten fruit, and chanting in unison that if the House tried to give them a floater they'd drive him to University Health services within 48 hours.
In all fairness, Eliot House is supposed to be one of the most generous in its treatment of these extended visitors. My roommates and I got off to an uncertain start, though. The first of them to arrive spent the first day wandering through the suite, pulling out his hair, and moaning ominously. "Oh is there gonna be shit. Oh God, is there gonna be shit." But Shit never arrived, so there are only six of us living in two bedrooms and a minimally converted shower stall until Mather finally opens sometime, we are now told, in January.